This volume, in Greenwood’s series The Great Cultural Eras of the Western World, covers the period from A.D. 500 to 1300, the period of time generally referred to as the Middle Ages. While the scope of this volume is western Europe, it is impossible to discuss the Middle Ages without including the people from Byzantium, Baghdad, and the Arab world who contributed so much to the politics, religion, and culture of western Europe as these eight centuries passed.
Borders and peoples were never quiescent during these tumultuous times. By 500, the Germanic tribes had invaded and settled in the former Roman Empire, and the synthesis of three cultures—the classical, Christian, and Germanic—had begun. In the sixth century, *Theodoric the Ostrogoth ruled a relatively tolerant Ostrogothic-Arian kingdom in Italy; *Clovis had completed the Frankish conquest of Gaul; the Vandals controlled North Africa; the Visigoths, forced to retreat from southern Gaul by the Franks, continued to dominate Spain; and the Angles and Saxons had settled in Britain. (In this volume, an asterisk indicates a cross-reference to another entry.) At the same time, the emperors of the Eastern Empire, Constantinople, thrived. In fact, Emperor *Justinian tried to reconquer the West and unite the two halves of the empire; while he was somewhat successful, after his death, problems arose. Although Byzantium retained much of southern Italy, the Lombards took northern Italy in 568; the Visigoths retook what they had lost to Justinian in southern Spain; and in the 690s, the Muslims took Byzantine North Africa.
At the same time, the Roman papacy began to play an independent role in European society. Pope *Gregory the Great began to send out missionaries throughout Europe to convert the non-Christian tribes to Christianity. One of the first missions from Rome was to *Æthelbert of Kent; *Augustine of Canterbury arrived in Britain in 597 and slowly began the process of converting the people there. The spiritual life developed rapidly in Ireland and in Britain, and in later centuries, Irish and English missionaries went forth to Christianize the